There are actually myriad reasons why we do the things we do. Motivation can come from many places, and some sources generate a more powerful emotional vector than others. Let’s examine two general types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Since climbing is a recreational activity and not a competitive sport for most, motivation to recreate in the steep begins, and for many stays, intrinsic. We all get into climbing because of the novel challenges and pleasures it provides us, and as a beginning climber the goal is simple: to climb! Our incentive to go climbing is equally basic: to learn moves and develop skills, to stretch our mental and physical abilities, and to taste fear and the attendant exhilaration, but still return to the ground healthy and alive. These intrinsic motivations are pure and long lasting, and they will keep you climbing for many years to come as long as you continually expose yourself to new climbing situations and locations.
With increasing expertise and a growing peer status of being a “good climber,” however, motivation can gradually become more extrinsically oriented. For example, the feeling that you need to succeed on a route when others are watching is form of external motivation, as is the desire to outperform another climber or to win in a climbing competition. An extreme example of extrinsic motivation is the professional climber who feels that he must ascend some radical route to satisfy his sponsors or, worse yet, engages in a dangerous form of climbing in order to be featured in some magazine or DVD. While some extrinsic motivation comes with the territory of being a sponsored or professional climber, it’s vitally important to remain connected to—and primarily directed by—your intrinsic motivation. To become completely controlled by extrinsic motivation is to lose your soul, prostitute your passion, and perhaps lose your life, since some of the most dangerous acts and poor decisions in climbing are compelled by external pressure to take a risk and act, despite a strong intuitive sense not to.
The bottom line: Strive to remain intrinsically motivated, and you will experience great joy and accomplishment, and dodge the pitfalls, pressure, and angst that come with extrinsic motivation. Go to the mountains to recreate because there’s no place you’d rather be, climb simply because you love to climb, risk because it’s in your soul to do so, and bask in the glory of your efforts (success or not), and you will be a happy climber for life.
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Copyright 2010 Eric J. Hörst. All rights reserved.